President Uhuru Kenyatta last evening officially opened the Nairobi SGR station at Syokimau, with a vow to connect the line to other countries.
In his speech, he said the railway line is only a piece of the jigsaw for an integrated Africa.
“We Kenyans will prosper alongside our neighbours, and peace and stability will be one of the fruits we shall reap together,” he said.
“I believe that Kenya’s geographic, economic and political position makes us destined to economically connect Africa to the rest of the world, and especially to the peoples and economies of the Indian Ocean Rim.
“Our new railway will play an immense role. Some of the world’s largest cities, companies and populations are on the Indian Ocean Rim. Our location is strategic,” he said.
President Kenyatta said he hopes there will be continuity of infrastructure projects regardless of who wins in the next elections.
In a press conference aboard the Madaraka Express train from Mombasa, the President said all projects under Vision 2030 must be completed regardless of changes in government.
“It is my strong belief that administrations come and go. Governments are permanent and so we have a responsibility as leaders and even those who come after us to follow through because all these projects are all envisioned in Vision 2030 and they belong to Kenyans,” he told journalists in a coach.
“Whoever is in power has to ensure that public resources are utilised for projects that are ultimately completed for the benefit of Kenyans,” he added.
The President was responding to questions about the completion of projects he started when he took power but which have been criticised by the Opposition who argued they have left the country indebted.
They signed a loan worth Sh327 billion to build the Standard Gauge Railway from China. The railway had been conceived during the Grand Coalition Government of Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga. They also signed loans from Japan to expand the Port of Mombasa and borrowed more to construct roads.
Kenya is due to hold elections this August and the fear is that a new administration under a different party or coalition could abandon them altogether.
The President, who was riding the inaugural train journey on the new railway, though, argued his administration was following through a vision established years ago when he was not in power.
“When we took over in 2013, there are no projects that we stopped. We actually focused ourselves first to finish the projects that had been initiated or were in various stages of completion by the previous administration,” he said.
“We only started our programmes once we had completed those. That is why we are now at the tail end. And actually delayed in some of the projects we had wanted to start,” he said.
The President was riding with his Deputy William Ruto, cabinet secretaries, senior government officials, African diplomats and Chinese officials.
During his many stops, the President announced lowered fares for economy class from Sh900 to Sh700 between Nairobi and Mombasa. Kenyans can buy tickets from any train station.
©Alleastafrica and Daily Nation